You may have passed me this afternoon, one more struggling mom at Target. A one-year-old teetered victoriously in the front seat of my shopping cart, having somehow escaped once more from the confines of what I believed to be a securely fastened seatbelt. A few steps ahead, a five-year-old appraised the merchandise with all the discrimination one might expect from a person who is not paying, and held up one piece of crap after another. This, mom? Can I get this?
You could see, observer, that I was in over my head. But you could not have known the fortuitous circumstances that led us here, and so I will fill you in.
It began with a tantrum, on this third morning of kindergarten, about socks. They did not feel good, and I was asking her to wear them anyway. Because today was P.E. day, and mommy doesn’t make the rules. Wear your socks. Put on your shoes. We soon will be late, on this third morning of kindergarten. Isn’t that embarrassing? Perhaps I should walk you in and tell your teacher why you aren’t wearing socks on P.E. day. And your reputation will be soiled forever, all because of some silly socks. Don’t make me tell your teacher, sweet pea.
I dropped her at the curb of the school and she trudged inside, her face still tear-stained. On her feet were leopard print shoes with purple socks that were going to ruin her day and had already ruined mine, despite the fact that it was only 7:38. I pulled over and tapped out a quick email to her teacher, explaining the whole stupid mess, just in case her misery lingered. Several hours later I received a cheery response: She has been fine all morning ☺ She is such a sweet girl!
By the time 2:30 rolled around, I’d cooled down and put the sock episode behind me – judging by the email, my daughter clearly had. My plan, a peace offering, was to bring her to Target and let her pick out some socks for herself, ones that she deemed acceptable, as well as a new pair of tennis shoes that would fit her properly. As I walked up to the kindergarten fence to retrieve her, she came bounding toward me, a piece of paper clutched in her hand. Student of the Day! it read.
Was I proud of her? Of course. Was I slightly annoyed that after acting like a lunatic about the socks, she shape-shifted into a rule-abiding paradigm of proper kindergarten behavior? If I’m being honest, yes. Yes I was. But I’m not one to hold a grudge against a five-year-old, so when she asked if she could get a toy at Target as a reward for her special achievement, I said maybe. Which may not seem like much, but it’s more than I would typically concede.
So we ended up here, in the dark heart of commercialism, surrounded by multi-colored ponies with terrifying eyes and Shopkins, all the Shopkins, just waiting to be unwrapped and find their way down some small child’s esophagus. This, mom? Can I get this? This? This?
You may have heard my objections, fellow shopper, and the reasons I gave: You have something just like that, and you don’t even play with it. That toy takes batteries, and you know mommy never changes batteries. Too many pieces. We have SO many dress-up clothes already! Honey, that’s just weird. I don’t want that in my house.
I realized too late that “maybe” had been a terrible mistake. That although my child was Student of the Day!, I didn’t want to reward her in this way. That no matter what she held up, my answer would still be no. My peace offering, a pack of seemingly acceptable socks, lay unappreciated at the bottom of the cart next to a pair of hastily chosen tennis shoes. The baby had climbed out of her seat and was trying to tear herself out of my arms. “Bahhh!” she screamed. We were attracting attention. We were getting looks.
Perhaps, in the midst of your own errands, you noticed us. Perhaps you were one of the ones looking; I wouldn’t blame you if you were. To you, I may have appeared tired, about to give in. But there is something I need you to know.
What you saw in the toy section of Target, the ridiculous conversation you overheard between my child and I- it was the biggest success of this mom’s day. Standing there, my cart inconveniently angled across the aisle, a squirming body slung over my shoulder, a pleading child in front of me, I felt stronger than I had in some time. I had moved past “maybe” and was high on the power of “no”.
In fact, it made me feel so good that I agreed to buy my daughter a sticker book, and then we were both happy. And you were probably happy too, stranger of my imagination, because my children were being annoying, and now we were gone, on our way to pick up child number three from preschool. We all left Target just a little bit better than we came. Sometimes things just work out like that.
About the Author
Jenny Dunn Pray is a Yankee transplant who lives in Anderson, South Carolina with her husband, three young daughters, and dog, Little Ron Santo. Coffee and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream are her best friends. Keep up with her family’s shenanigans at her blog, Mommy Identity Crisis, or on Twitter and Instagram.